Prior to the GFC, Gen Ys wanted to move jobs regularly. But, is this still the case? Have their behaviours changed with less employment opportunities and less flexibility available? Most employers now realise, the skills shortage in Australia hasn’t gone away – it has just taken a brief holiday. Now we have our biggest challenge to harness the skills of Gen Ys – our future leaders!

Recent research from Mercer Consulting shows a generation of young finance professionals seeking aspirational and dynamic career paths, both inside and outside traditional mainstream finance careers.

“It presents a wakeup call to employers of finance professionals to embrace the career aspirations of the youngest generation and offer dynamic career routes that capitalise on their finance skills, or risk losing future talent.”

Much has been written on why Gen Y is different to Gen X and Boomers. A lot can be put down to the environment in which they have started their careers, having experienced 15 years of a continuous, positive economic environment and only now having experienced the first recession over the last three years.

A survey from i4CP in 2009 found a change in Gen Y attitude with 65% of respondents wanting job security and plan to:

  • Extend working hours (33%);
  • Take on more job responsibility and help fellow workers (30%);
  • Rank job security above job advancement (44%).

However, it is important to note that Gen Ys do seek many things from work that managers must take into account:

  • Flexibility and work on their terms;
  • Feel valued and seek continuous recognition;
  • Want to be challenged;
  • Want a fun environment.

Gen Y are tomorrow’s leaders and we need to recognise and develop them as they have many positive attributes:

  • Adapt to change more readily than older employees;
  • Able to cope with rapidly changing technologies;
  • Adapt to organisational restructuring and changing career paths.

For managers, there are challenges and they need to understand and accept the differences, as well as manage Gen Ys needs and expectations. Gen Ys often resist formal structures and wish to have a more informal relationship with their manager. Bearing these factors in mind, some strategies to help manage younger workers successfully include:

  • Understand the way the generations work and identify communication preferences;
  • Provide a ‘life line’ so they can learn what is expected of them;
  • Explain the big picture so they understand their role in the business;
  • Provide regular feedback and self development training initiatives;
  • Focus on their strengths and allow flexibility;
  • Consider reverse mentoring where they can work with an older employee to gain a better of older generations.

What is becoming clear is Gen Ys are really not much different than when the Boomers were young and they have so much to offer. After all, Mozart didn’t know that he was too young to write a composition at age five and Mark Zuckerberg didn’t realise he was too young to invent Facebook at age 20.

We have a lot to be confident about the next generation of leaders.